Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy On His Vote Wednesday Against The Senate Amendment To Weaken The New Law Targeting Excessive ‘Swipe’ Fees Imposed By Banks On Merchants (And Passed Along To Consumers)

[The U.S. Senate Wednesday narrowly derailed a bid by banks to weaken a new law, included in last year’s Wall Street Reform Bill, that targets the excessive ‘swipe’ fees that banks charge merchants when consumers use debit cards for their purchases.  The swipe fee reforms -- authored in the Senate by Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) – are about to take effect.  Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) was a leading cosponsor of the Durbin reforms and opposed the amendment offered Wednesday to undermine them.  The bank-supported amendment was rejected Wednesday afternoon when it failed to secure 60 votes, in a procedural roll call vote of 54 for the weakening provisions, and 45 against.]

“Next month the Federal Reserve will implement long-overdue reforms to rein in excessive swipe fees that banks charge merchants whenever consumers use debit cards for their purchases.  These sky-high fees are hurting small businesses in Vermont and across the country, adding costs that mean higher prices for consumers.  I opposed this attempt to delay implementation of these new rules.  This vote is an all-too-rare victory for consumers and America’s Main Street economy.  Amid our fragile economic recovery, we cannot delay any effort to ease the burden on small merchants and hardworking Vermonters.  

“I supported adding these provisions to last year’s Wall Street Reform Bill, along with other reforms that I championed to ensure that small businesses can offer discounts to consumers for paying by cash instead of by credit card, and to make sure small businesses cannot be prohibited from setting minimum transaction amounts when cards are used.  These reforms will deliver pocketbook benefits to Vermonters.  Because of these reforms, Vermonters will no longer have to pay more for a gallon of milk simply because the credit card companies are demanding high fees on small transactions, or because banks will not let grocers offer discounts for cash over credit.”

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